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Board improves construction

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002

Allegheny County Health Department officials said they found improved conditions Tuesday upon their inspection of the Plum Senior High School construction project.

"The school still has dust issues, but we found a lot of improvements," said Dave Zazac, health department spokesman.

The health department has conducted several inspections of the building over the past month after receiving complaints about dust, Zazac said. He did not disclose the source of the complaints.

District officials said they have made improvements to cut down on the dust and eliminate fumes in the building.

The building is undergoing a $43 million construction and renovation project that is expected to be completed in August.

A new academic wing — with science, computer, math and foreign language classrooms — opened September 30.

Zazac said yesterday's inspection found that the district has corrected ventilation problems and dust has been reduced. Previously, inspectors had found an increase in dust that is consistent with heavy construction. The health department had ordered daily mopping of hallways, floors, lockers and ledges, Zazac said.

"At a construction project of this scale, you are going to generate dust," Zazac said.

Zazac said the health department also received indoor air complaints.

Plum School Board President Diana Tresco said changes have been made to the way the roof is being tarred after fumes seeped into the cafeteria.

Dawn Check, Plum Borough School District public relations director, said the concerns raised have prompted the district to shift two jobs, tarring the roof and fireproofing, to the second shift — 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. — after students have gone home.

Junior Norma Yocco, 16, said at times, the fumes — particularly at the beginning of the school year — have given her headaches.

"It has become a little more clean," Yocco said. "It's better than it was."

Check also said ceiling-to-floor dust curtains have been installed to separate the construction area from the instruction area and cut down on the dust.

Check said a couple of students who have health problems were moved to a construction-free portion of the building.

Superintendent George Cooke said as of October 15, no students were sent home because of dust and fumes.

In the midst of receiving complaints, Tresco said she and Cooke made it clear to officials of Foreman, the construction management company, that the firm needed to do a better job of monitoring the project or payment would be withheld.

"We insist on providing a safe educational environment for our students and staff," Tresco said.

Zazac said health department officials will return to the high school in two weeks to conduct another inspection.

"They are on the road to improvement," Zazac said.

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